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Taking Time Off From Work: Domestic Violence Leave

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Taking Time Off From Work: Domestic Violence Leave

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Are you missing work because of a violent relationship? Are you worried that you might get fired for being absent because of problems with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife?

This article will tell you more about Family Violence Leave in Connecticut and help you decide whether to ask for it. We've created a program that will help you write a letter to your employer asking for Family Violence Leave.

Q: What is Domestic Violence Leave and what can it be used for?

If a worker is experiencing violence in their family or their relationship, the employer must let them take up to 12 days off if needed to:

  • Get medical care for an injury
  • Get counseling / mental health assistance
  • Get help from a domestic violence organization
  • Go to the Victim Advocate’s office
  • Go to a court hearing
  • Move to a new place to get away from the violence

(If you want to read the law itself, you can find it here: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/pub/chap557.htm#Sec31-51ss.htm.)

Q: Does every employer or work place have to give this time off?

Any employer that has three (3) or more employees has to give leave to victims of family violence.

Q: What does it mean to be a "victim of family violence"?

An incident can be considered "family" violence even if you are not married or related by blood. This law covers violence between:

  • People who are married to each other
  • People who used to be married and are now divorced
  • Boyfriends/girlfriends who are dating
  • Boyfriend/girlfriends who recently broke up
  • People who have a child together, even if they have never lived together
  • Parents and children
  • Two people who are related by blood or by marriage
  • People who live together or who used to live together

"Violence" means:

  • You have been physically hurt or attacked
  • You have been threatened and have good reason to be afraid that the person who threatened you will hurt you
  • Arguing, name-calling and mental abuse are not family violence unless you are also in danger of being physically hurt

Q: How much time can I take off?

Up to twelve (12) days in one year, although an employer may choose to give an employee more time.

The family violence leave is not supposed to take away any rights the worker has as part of their union or employment contract. It is also not supposed to affect any other leave the employee should get under state or federal law.

Q: Will I get paid for the days I take off?

Only if you already have paid time off (like personal days, sick days, or vacation time) available to you.

If you think you may be able to use personal days, sick days, or vacation time without having to ask for Family Violence Leave, you may want to try that first if you are uncomfortable sharing the reason you need the leave. If you need the time off to see a doctor or a mental health professional, that time might be covered by sick days of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Ask your employer about its medical leave policies.

Q: How much do I have to tell my boss about what’s going on to get the time off?

Many people who are in a violent relationship or home want to keep that private, and the law says the employer has to keep any paperwork it gets from someone requesting the leave confidential. But if you request the time off under this law, you will have to tell your boss what is going on. If you take family violence leave, your employer can ask you to provide paperwork to show why you need the time off. Such paperwork might include:

  • a police report
  • a court document
  • a written statement from the
    • medical or counselor’s office
    • the domestic violence organization
    • an attorney or a court employee

If you give any of these papers to your boss, the reality is that he or she will probably have to show another manager or someone in the human resources department in order to give you the time off. But your employer is supposed to keep these documents confidential and can’t show the paperwork to anyone else unless the law requires it or if it is necessary to keep an employee safe – and your employer would have to tell you first.

The most important thing is your safety: Would telling your employer make things worse for you or put you in more danger? Connect with a legal aid lawyer or Domestic Violence advocate.

Q: How far in advance do I have to ask for time off?

Usually, you should ask for the time off as soon as you know you need it. If you need the time off for something that was "foreseeable" – like a weekly counseling appointment that you know about ahead of time – your boss can require you to ask for the leave as many as seven days ahead of time. If you need the time for something that come up suddenly (if you have to move quickly, for example, or get an emergency restraining order), you are supposed to ask your boss for the time off as soon as you can.

Q: How should I ask for the time off?

You can use this tool: Write a Connecticut Family Violence Leave Letter. It will ask you a few questions and put together a request letter that you can print out and give to your employer.

Questions? Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 or 860-344-0380.

Read our article, Social Media and Smartphone Safety For Victims of Family Violence.

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

Not from Connecticut?

Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only. Visit LawHelp.org to find a legal services program and/or a legal information web site in your area.